The Humble Outlook of Canada’s Homeless Encampment Residents is Inspiring

homeless people in Canada

We hear many words used to describe people struck by the state of homelessness. Most of them are too appalling to be published. One word that is rarely used is humble, or better yet, grateful, not to mention inspiring, though they exhibit all of these traits in many instances.

Ever since the desolate state of homelessness has existed here in the Great White North, there has been a concentrated push to paint people experiencing it in the most negative possible light.

Well-intending members of the public are wrongly misled to believe that if we gave homeless people the one thing 100% of them need (which is housing), they’d respond by being ungrateful and the opposite of humble. 

For those who’ve fallen victim to this line of thinking, here’s some food for thought.

Ontario Homeless Encampment Residents Express Gratitude for Life’s Smallest Favors

Mid-summer heat sweeps a homeless encampment in Kitchener, Ontario, where more than 40 people enduring unsheltered homelessness have gathered. The disheveled property features a patchwork of makeshift houses and vinyl tents baking in the summer sun.

The Star reports that there are currently about 1,000 unsheltered homeless residents in this region. Nearby shelters are crowded, and hotels are scarce. Street outreach is working tirelessly to change the circumstances with positive results.

The social services sector has transitioned more than 500 locals this past year from unsheltered conditions to permanent housing. Still, thousands more stay and wait. Many of them are in encampments.

This particular tent city erected from barrels of broken dreams almost shut down on June 6, 2022. The Region of Waterloo owns the property and intended to evict all encampment residents on that fateful day in early June. However, Waterloo’s Regional chair Karen Redman recently mentioned that they now intend to file the evictions with the court. This process will buy encampment residents a tiny bit more time but still has legal implications and ultimately seeks the same result.

Advocates are outraged, to say the least, at the lack of compassion being shown by the region. Representatives for Waterloo claim there’s shelter space available, but encampment residents and supporters counter that claim with doubt. They are frustrated with the shuffling of this human deck of cards, with the senseless sweeps and unnecessary legal action.

Ironically enough, the homeless encampment residents have expressed a very different sentiment. They are grateful that they’re not being kicked out sooner.

Can you imagine the level of humility it takes to crawl into a tent on a warm summer day, knowing the people who own the property are suing to have you evicted, understanding that shelter space and motel rooms are limited, that for many, they are just a distant dream? Yet, your reaction is gratitude, happiness even?

“I’m happy, but I wasn’t gonna leave anyway,” a resident identified as Will House told reporters. Later during the same interview, he spoke about the possibility of moving into a motel room, a thought that ushered in similarly warm sentiments. “It would be nice to have my own bathroom,” he said.

House’s partner Jenn Draper was equally cheerful, calling the fact that they were not being immediately evicted “really good news.”

A fellow encampment resident, Britney O’Donnell, a survivor of unfathomable homeless shelter violence, is enthralled that she hasn’t had to fend off any burglars at the encampment.

“It’s much better here,” O’Donnell proclaims, adding, “no one steals my stuff.”

The Air of Optimism and Humility is Difficult to Overshadow, Though Many Try

Even the most skeptical cynic would have to pause if they read between the lines of what these encampment residents are saying. These are the same people mainstream media and local politicians would have you believe are entirely ungrateful and sucking the economy dry.

The leading cause of homelessness in Canada is insufficient income. Statistically speaking, a vast portion of Canada’s homeless population is employed. They’re simply not being paid enough to afford homes. Others are unable to work due to illness, injuries, or trauma.

There’s a multitude of reasons people wind up on the streets. Arguably even more reasons they might give up hope once they arrive at that bleak intersection of tough luck and rock bottom. At this juncture, it feels like the world has forgotten you.

But look at humanity’s sheer resilience, as shown in the comments. Pay close attention to what these residents are not saying, to how they’re not ranting or even mildly complaining. Ask yourself if you could bite your tongue in such a graceful, cheerful manner if you were in their shoes. Optimism and humility are admirable traits often exhibited by society’s most vulnerable residents.

Imagine How Grateful These Same Encampment Residents Would be if They Were Offered Permanent Supportive Housing

The thought of merely not being immediately evicted from the tents they’re currently living in was enough to instill hope in these individuals. Imagine how grateful they would be if they were offered what they needed: permanent, supportive, affordable homes.

With policy changes and preventative measures, that dream could become a reality for the thousands of homeless Canadians. Please urge your legislators to make housing a human right for all.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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